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So You Want to Read Young Adult Fantasy: Here’s Where to Start

Young adult fantasy — much like the broader fantasy genre — is full of subgenres and wildly imaginative takes on classic tropes. There’s something here for readers of essentially any age, whether you’re looking for a simple escape, a complex tale of fantastical intrigue, or deeply rooted and thought provoking allegories. YA may have been our first introduction fantastical realms, nigh-impossible quests, and epic struggles between good and evil. There really is no better time to take a nostalgia-fueled trip back to the roots of your love of fantasy. The books below feature a few classics — vanguards of the current YA fantasy heavyweights — as well as a few more recent entries worth your attention.

  1. 1
    Akata Warrior Book Cover Picture
    Akata Warrior Book Cover Picture

    Akata Warrior

    by Nnedi Okorafor

    Akata Warrior Book Cover Picture
    Akata Warrior Book Cover Picture

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  2. 2
    The Hobbit (Movie Tie-in Edition) Book Cover Picture
    The Hobbit (Movie Tie-in Edition) Book Cover Picture

    The Hobbit

    by J.R.R. Tolkien

    Arguably the grandfather of YA fantasy, The Hobbit is most widely known as the prelude to The Lord of the Rings and the 300 page basis for a 462-minute trilogy of films. The tale of Bilbo Baggins and his unexpected stint as a burglar for a band of dwarves is the early forerunner to a host of YA fantasy reads.
    The Hobbit (Movie Tie-in Edition) Book Cover Picture
    The Hobbit (Movie Tie-in Edition) Book Cover Picture

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  3. 3
    His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass (HBO Tie-In Edition) Book Cover Picture
    His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass (HBO Tie-In Edition) Book Cover Picture

    His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass (HBO Tie-In Edition)

    by Philip Pullman

    A masterwork of storytelling and suspense, Philip Pullman’s award-winning The Golden Compass is the first in the His Dark Materials series, which continues with The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass.
    His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass (HBO Tie-In Edition) Book Cover Picture
    His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass (HBO Tie-In Edition) Book Cover Picture

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  4. 4
    Reign of the Fallen Book Cover Picture
    Reign of the Fallen Book Cover Picture

    Reign of the Fallen

    by Sarah Glenn Marsh

    Reign of the Fallen Book Cover Picture
    Reign of the Fallen Book Cover Picture

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  5. 5
    An Ember in the Ashes Book Cover Picture
    An Ember in the Ashes Book Cover Picture

    An Ember in the Ashes

    by Sabaa Tahir

    Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear. But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.
    An Ember in the Ashes Book Cover Picture
    An Ember in the Ashes Book Cover Picture

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  6. 6
    Tempests and Slaughter (The Numair Chronicles, Book One) Book Cover Picture
    Tempests and Slaughter (The Numair Chronicles, Book One) Book Cover Picture

    Tempests and Slaughter

    by Tamora Pierce

    In the Numair Chronicles, readers will be rewarded with the never-before-told story of how Numair Salmalín came to Tortall. Newcomers will discover a YA fantasy where a kingdom’s future rests on the shoulders of a talented young man with a knack for making vicious enemies.
    Tempests and Slaughter (The Numair Chronicles, Book One) Book Cover Picture
    Tempests and Slaughter (The Numair Chronicles, Book One) Book Cover Picture

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  7. 7
    Ash Princess Book Cover Picture
    Ash Princess Book Cover Picture

    Ash Princess

    by Laura Sebastian

    Theodosia was six when her country was invaded and her mother, the Fire Queen, was murdered before her eyes. On that day, the Kaiser took Theodosia’s family, her land, and her name. Theo was crowned Ash Princess–a title of shame to bear in her new life as a prisoner. For ten years, the Ash Princess has seen her land pillaged and her people enslaved. That all ends here.
    Ash Princess Book Cover Picture
    Ash Princess Book Cover Picture

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  8. 8
    The Book of Dust: The Secret Commonwealth (Book of Dust, Volume 2) Book Cover Picture
    The Book of Dust: The Secret Commonwealth (Book of Dust, Volume 2) Book Cover Picture

    The Book of Dust: The Secret Commonwealth

    by Philip Pullman

    Return to the parallel world of His Dark Materials in the second volume of Philip Pullman’s new bestselling masterwork The Book of Dust. Powerful forces are about to throw Lyra and Malcolm together once again. And the dangers they face will challenge everything they thought they knew about the world, and about themselves.
    The Book of Dust: The Secret Commonwealth (Book of Dust, Volume 2) Book Cover Picture
    The Book of Dust: The Secret Commonwealth (Book of Dust, Volume 2) Book Cover Picture

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  9. 9
    Beasts Made of Night Book Cover Picture
    Beasts Made of Night Book Cover Picture

    Beasts Made of Night

    by Tochi Onyebuchi

    Black Panther meets Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata Witch in Beasts Made of Night, the first book in an epic fantasy duology. Tochi Onyebuchi delivers an unforgettable series opener that powerfully explores the true meaning of justice and guilt.
    Beasts Made of Night Book Cover Picture
    Beasts Made of Night Book Cover Picture

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  10. 10
    Forest of a Thousand Lanterns Book Cover Picture
    Forest of a Thousand Lanterns Book Cover Picture

    Forest of a Thousand Lanterns

    by Julie C. Dao

    Set in an East Asian-inspired fantasy world filled with both breathtaking pain and beauty, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns possesses all the hallmarks of masterful fantasy: dazzling magic, heartbreaking romance, and a world that hangs in the balance.
    Forest of a Thousand Lanterns Book Cover Picture
    Forest of a Thousand Lanterns Book Cover Picture

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  11. 11
    Pet Book Cover Picture
    Pet Book Cover Picture

    Pet

    by Akwaeke Emezi

    The highly-anticipated, genre-defying new novel by award-winning author Akwaeke Emezi that explores themes of identity and justice. Pet is here to hunt a monster. Are you brave enough to look?
    Pet Book Cover Picture
    Pet Book Cover Picture

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  12. 12
    Warcross Book Cover Picture
    Warcross Book Cover Picture

    Warcross

    by Marie Lu

    When a game called Warcross takes the world by storm, one girl hacks her way into its dangerous depths. Marie Lu conjures an immersive, exhilarating world where choosing who to trust may be the biggest gamble of all.
    Warcross Book Cover Picture
    Warcross Book Cover Picture

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  13. 13
    Flame in the Mist Book Cover Picture
    Flame in the Mist Book Cover Picture

    Flame in the Mist

    by Renée Ahdieh

    Flame in the Mist Book Cover Picture
    Flame in the Mist Book Cover Picture

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  14. 14
    The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein Book Cover Picture
    The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein Book Cover Picture

    The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein

    by Kiersten White

    Discover the stunning and dark reimagining of Frankenstein that internationally bestselling author Stephanie Garber raves is “exquisitely disturbing.”
    The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein Book Cover Picture
    The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein Book Cover Picture

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  15. 15
    Soundless Book Cover Picture
    Soundless Book Cover Picture

    Soundless

    by Richelle Mead

    For as long as Fei can remember, there has been no sound in her village, and Fei and her people are at the mercy of a zipline that carries food up the treacherous cliffs from Beiguo, a mysterious faraway kingdom. When villagers begin to lose their sight, deliveries from the zipline shrink and many go hungry. Richelle Mead takes readers on a triumphant journey from the peak of Fei’s jagged mountain village to the valley of Beiguo, where a startling truth and an unlikely romance will change her life forever….
    Soundless Book Cover Picture
    Soundless Book Cover Picture

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